Verona food pantry sees demand ‘explode,’ as inflation makes grocery shopping harder

While U.S. inflation is at a 40-year high, many families in our area are turning to food pantries for help.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 6:11 PM CDT
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VERONA, Wis. (WMTV) - While U.S. inflation sits at a 40-year high, many families in the area are turning to food pantries for help. But for one food pantry, this demand is getting harder to meet, especially as supply poses a problem.

Last year, the Badger Prairie Needs Network (BPNN) drew the biggest crowd wanting food assistance in its 36-year-long history. The record was set with 19 thousand guests, according to Staff Member Marcia Kasieta.

But as of this month, the pantry has already served 18 thousand people this year.

“We fully expected to see a reduction in the numbers of people coming for food assistance, but instead we’ve seen it explode,” Kasieta said.

Numbers are on track to serve 30 thousand people by the end of the year.

“Those numbers are terrifying to us. We’ve seen highs and lows; before we’ve gone through a recession in 2008. We’ve gone through the pandemic, which we thought was the worst possible scenario,” Kasieta said.

Families in line Tuesday said they feel the impact of inflation.

“Gasoline and the grocery stores. Everything is high, the price,” said Francisco Lopez, a father of three.

Refugees from Ukraine also waited for service, commenting on U.S. grocery store prices. “We think it’s rather expensive,” they said.

According to Kasieta, many families are receiving charitable food now for the first time, some of them including refugees from Ukraine, Venezuela and Colombia.

Kasieta said, “There isn’t help necessarily with free housing, and there isn’t help with discount or free gas. But there is help for high food prices, and that’s what food pantries and food banks are for. We’re doing everything we can to fill that gap.”

But as demand soars, Kasieta worries about the empty shelves.

“The food supply has diminished to the point where we’re very concerned about whether or not we’ll be able to feed the families that come here,” she said.

She blames supply chain issues and donations being down.

Other food sources, however, remain busy. Second Harvest Foodbank Spokesperson Kris Tazelaar said it delivered 91 thousand pounds of food Tuesday, the highest daily total seen over the last couple months.

The distribution numbers are a response to longer lists of needs from more than 300 partnering agencies and programs, including BPNN.

Tazelaar said, “To pay that four-and-a-half dollars for gas, to pay those higher prices that we’re seeing as a result of inflation, that’s really asking an awful lot for folks who are already facing some some troubling times.”

As dollars don’t stretch as far, BPNN says monetary donations are crucial, especially to purchase items that are harder now to source. Donations can be made online at bpnn.org.

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